Selecting high quality, educational and fun apps is no easy task. As Digital Learning Lead Librarian at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I spend hours looking through Children’s Tech Review, School Library Journal and Hornbook relying on their app recommendations to share with our staff and the youth we serve. Many times an app we love at the Library disappears from the app store! Other times apps simply do not provide the high-quality engagement that we seek. If there is one good thing when it comes to the overwhelming amount of educational apps available, it is that we can be incredibly selective with the media we choose to use in classrooms and at the Library with children of all ages. We rely on policy and research for these selections, but also respect the interests of the youth in our spaces. These are some of our favorite apps for children in grades K-2, many of which are completely free! Check out some of our STEM book lists to engage in conversation about technology in their lives.
Another fun app that supports literacy through talking and storytelling. Chatterpix lets users take pictures and add funny interactions. Children can use this app in inventive ways with the encouragement of a teacher or parent. Any object you can photograph can be used to tell a story.
I could easily choose any of Tinybop’s apps as Library favorites! This developer’s line of interactive toys offers a range of learning experiences. Me! Is a unique app that prompts children to tell stories, answer questions and talk about themselves. While this app encourages personal and social emotional growth through sharing, the developer is committed to privacy noting, “We take your and your kids’ privacy seriously and we don’t share your info.” Take turns with your child talking about your favorite animals and sharing stories through drawing, singing and fun interactive prompts. Talking encourages language development; this app will have kids laughing and collaborating.
Mixerpiece by Giuseppe Ragazzini
A fun and relaxing introduction to art history to inspire creative minds of all ages! Incorporate multimedia into collage art utilizing Mixerpiece. Users can save their art as a postcard to share. Digital media should not replace hands on exploration so make sure to pair this app with your favorite artist picture book biographies and get out the scissors and glue!
Not to be confused with our other favorite Mixerpiece! Miximal is a great option for younger school age children that gives them a chance to mix it up. A great literacy learning opportunity as this app breaks up animal word syllables to create fun new words and creatures. You’ll be excited to learn all about the unique crogufant or petocan.
Osmo kits and apps
Free apps, kits range from around $50.00-$100.00
Osmo is technically an interactive learning toy supported with apps downloaded to an iPad. Art, letters, numbers and coding are just a few of the skills supported with this kit. Hands on learning happens off screen as the Osmo uses mirrors to communicate what children are doing with their hands. At the Library we offer programs using a variety of Osmo accessories. Connect with your local librarian to see when you have a chance to use this technology along with your child and our supportive staff.
Learning happens best when apps are connected to real life experiences and used along with conversation and interactions–just like books! Outdoor Family Fun with Plum gives children high quality STEM experiences with activities that enhance outdoor fun, and guide interactions with the natural world. Tech should never substitute for experiences in nature, but combined with conversation and encouragement this free app can amplify outdoor learning opportunities even in a backyard or during a walk to the grocery store.
More math fun in this app by PBS Kids! Join Peg and Cat on a journey combining music and math exploration for an app that puts the “A” in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). This app engages learners through music with embedded math skills, and lots of opportunity to explore more with Peg + Cat in their accompanying books available at the Library!
Scratch Jr. by Scratch Foundation
The Library loves Scratch and Scratch Jr. Scratch Jr. provides block based coding and high-quality computer literacy activities for the younger set. The site and app offer plenty of guided and scaffolded activities, as well as self-directed learning opportunities. Coding is a literacy we can all develop and Scratch provides an accessible entry. Because Scratch offers pathways for growth when children grow out of this Jr. version, they can advance to the full version. From storytelling through games to inventions, Scratch offers limitless, interest driven opportunities to explore. For more fun try out the awesome collaborative effort of Scratch + PBS Kids with PBS Kids Scratch Jr.
This is a free, fun app that supports children’s math skills. Kids can explore fun challenges and games in this beginner app. Many children learn negative associations around numbers and math early in life, while this app provides a low pressure setting to get more comfortable in these literacies. Once children move beyond these levels they can progress to more comprehensive math apps, which children’s librarians at all of our locations are happy to suggest!
Kristin is the Digital Learning Lead Librarian at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. She enjoys embroidery, feminist children’s literature and strong female protagonists! When not corralling robots at the Library you will find her hanging out with her dogs Iggy and Fritz.